Is a degree from an elite school really that Important?

Last week I wrote about the importance of broadening your college search beyond the “Top 20” schools as identified by US News or Princeton Review rankings. While most of the parents and students I work with understand that you are paying for the “name” and not just the education at an elite school, there is lingering fear that one is missing out by not going to a name-brand institution. One blogger has collected statistics of acceptances to graduate and medical schools, of Rhodes and Fulbright scholarship winners and of individual SAT scores compared with school averages. The result? Students from smaller and less well-known schools were just as successful after graduation as those from the typical “top 20” schools. Furthermore, a student’s individual effort during college — their grades, activities and individual achievements — were a far greater indicator of post-graduate success rather than the school they attend.

The blogger who assembled these statistics puts it this way:

“Let’s get something out of the way first. Colleges and universities that are generally nationally recognized are graduating successful students. Their students obviously are getting jobs and being accepted into graduate school.” (From: http://diycollegerankings.com/what-happens-to-people-who-go-to-colleges-no-one-has-ever-heard-of/5240/)

When you consider that the “Top 20” schools are less likely to provide financial aid, there’s compelling reason to look beyond the usual list. Why pay more when your student can be equally successful at a more affordable school?